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A Great Balancing Act – 3 Easy Ways to Alleviate the Effects of Stress 

 December 3, 2020

By Collin Adams

Do you remember playing on the teeter-totter as a kid?

Typically, two individuals will get on and go up and down as each person pushes off the ground.

You may have grown up and moved on from the joys of simple playground structures… but your body hasn’t.

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is your body’s system specifically designed to respond to the environment and feedback it is given.

There are two branches in the ANS.

  1. Sympathetic Branch – responsible for your stress or “fight or flight” response
  2. Parasympathetic Branch – responsible for recovery, rest, and digestion (among other things)

These two branches ebb and flow, like a teeter-totter, throughout the day to maintain Homeostasis in your body.

However, I’m sure you recall an occasion where, when playing on the teeter-totter, one person was significantly bigger than the other. What happens? Well, usually there isn’t much movement and both individuals are stuck in the position they’re in.

So it is with the ANS. The demands of life, constant checking of email and social media, never-ending distractions, all cause the body to enter into a state of chronic stress.

In this state, the sympathetic branch of the ANS is always active. The ebb and flow has ceased, leaving a weakened ability to rest and recover.

Some symptoms of an overactive sympathetic tone are:

  1. Sleeplessness
  2. Racing thoughts
  3. Lack of focus, lack of mental clarity, poor attention
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Poor emotional control and stability

Just to name a few. The list goes on and on and on.

How does this happen? Well, like I said before, an inability to effectively manage your daily stress levels results in chronic stress. The inability to get out of sympathetic tone.

To combat this, you must be diligent in these three areas:

  1. Sleep

Gone are the days of wearing “no sleep” as a badge of honor. Sacrificing sleep is foolish and will cause serious issues with your health and performance in the long run. Sure, maybe you can get away with a couple consecutive 4-5-hour nights. But you cannot cheat sleep. It will catch up to you.

Tiger Performance Institute, along with researchers, doctors, and many other health professionals suggest getting between 6.5 and 8 hours of sleep each night. The more, the better.

Why? For many reasons.

But, to keep it simple, your body has a natural rhythm that it follows during sleep. The first four hours of sleep are designated for physical restoration. This is often when most of your deep sleep will occur. The second four hours are designated for mental restoration, when you are in REM sleep.

When you skip out on the last 3-4 hours of sleep each night, you are sacrificing any opportunity for mental restoration.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by the year 2050 more than 13.8 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer’s Disease.

Whoa.

If you are not already, start taking sleep seriously. Allow your body and brain the time they need to fully restore.

  1. Breathing

Did you know that you are a terrible breather?

Yikes, harsh.

Yes, in fact, you are not alone. Most people today are walking around taking in short, shallow chest breaths that barely provide your brain enough oxygen for it to function.

Your brain runs on electricity. For new neurons to form, connect, and grow, you must provide your brain with oxygen.

Oxygen accounts for over 70% of the energy created in the brain and body. The other 30% comes from food, water, and sleep.

By practicing diaphragmatic breathing, you are allowing your brain the oxygen that it needs to function at its best. Now, obviously you can’t go around all day breathing slow, deep breaths. That would not make sense.

However, when you take 3-5 minutes, a few times a day, to really focus on your breathing, you are optimizing the oxygen flow to your brain and reducing the negative effects that stress can have on your physiology.

Here’s how you can practice diaphragmatic breathing:

First, breathe in for 4 seconds. While breathing in, expand your stomach out, like a balloon. Next, hold your breath at the top for 1-2 seconds. This allows the oxygen to connect to the tiny air sacs in your lungs that transfer the oxygen to your brain. Finally, breathe out for 4 seconds while contracting your stomach back towards your spine.

Simple enough right? Repeat this process for 3-5 minutes multiple times per day for best results.

  1. Gratitude

Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen Clinics always says, “Don’t believe every stupid negative thought you have!” He calls this process ANT Killing. “ANT” stands for automatic negative thoughts.

I’m sure you can think of many instances where it seems that all of your thoughts of negative, all the time.

Gratitude practice helps you not only rid your mind of negative thinking, it also replaces those negative thoughts with grateful ones.

You cannot simply remove something and expect everything to be fixed. You need to fill that empty space with something else otherwise the old habit or way of doing things will just come right back.

Spend a few minutes each day when you wake up and before you go to bed thinking about a few things that you are thankful for. It could be your spouse, your job, your home, or even a family pet!

By thinking on these things, you are training and rewiring your brain away from the stressful effects of negative thinking, into a state of gratitude and joy.

Have questions? We would love to hear from you.

You can reach out to us at www.tigerpi.com/freesession to talk with a Tiger Representative today.